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So what are you afraid of?

Updated: Nov 23, 2020

Spiders, snakes, heights, flying or perhaps you are afraid of the dark? Our big fear right now is of Covid 19 of course. That has stopped us all in our tracks! Do we play safe and barricade ourselves in our homes to limit the risks or do we take a deep breath, put on a mask and venture out. Risk or no risk - a difficult decision to make for us all.

Creativity thrives on taking risks - on experiment - that moment when we say “lets see what happens if I .........“ Henry Matisse once said "Creativity takes Courage". He was so right. No matter if you are an amateur or an experienced artist, you have to take risks, otherwise your work will never develop. However, it can be so scary! Imagine you have been working on a painting for some time, let‘s say a landscape. You’re pleased. It’s looking good, but then a little voice in your head whispers:

”Maybe it would look better with a darker sky?”

“Ah...yes....but that might ruin it! On the other hand, now you mention it, perhaps it might improve it.... or then again it might not. Hmm...”

What a dilemma!

Recently I had this problem with a painting of some glorious red spring onions. The onions were such an incredible colour, I decided they would look great on a natural linen canvas. I set the onions on a piece of sacking, fixed the canvas to my easel and started work with gusto. The shapes emerged, the paint flowed, creating the beautiful magentas and greens. I was really enjoying myself! I stepped back to asses the finished painting. Then that annoying little voice popped into my head and said:

”It’s floating, try putting in some of the sackcloth to ground it”

“ Ah yes,” I thought.....”but if I do that ......”

Now the thing about painting on a natural linen canvas is that once you make a mark, there’s no going back, it‘s impossible to remove it. So if I start to draw in the sacking and decide I don’t like it - tough - I’m stuck. Either I’d have to paint over the whole canvas, defeating the object of creating a vignette, using the natural linen canvas as a background, or I’d have to start over 😩.

Annoying voice: “That sackcloth texture will be such a good contrast to the smooth, glossy onions”

Me: “I know, but I might ruin it!” Annoying voice: “ So?... It’s just a canvas. Don’t be so feeble! Where’s your courage?”

Me: “ Do you know how much that canvas cost?”

Annoying voice: “Oh for goodness sake......”

So, what to do safe or take a risk? The painting looks fine as it is, but the sackcloth texture would make an interesting contrast to the onions. However the sackcloth will be complicated, take a long time and I might mess it all up. Oh the dilemma! Well it’s not really, as deep down I know that voice is right, otherwise the thought wouldn’t have popped into my head - correct? Take a deep breath and go for it? Courage, courage.....

”The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela.

So I conquered my fear and not only did the painting look better, but I felt better too. The decision making didn’t end there as I had to decide how far to take the sacking. Being more of a vignette, it had to taper off somewhere!

We all have to take risks sometimes. Life is full of problems to solve, dangers to avoid and decisions to make. If we jump into the water will we sink or swim? If we make that speech, ride that horse, take that exam, what will happen? We all feel afraid sometimes but when we overcome that fear and get to the other side.........Oh the euphoria!

Sometimes things don’t work out though, so remember - every failure is an opportunity to learn, and believe me, there have been plenty of those. 😬

This painting is now framed and available on my website:

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